A few years ago, a heavily-bearded Amitabh Bachchan was often spotted roaming around places like Shimla and Nashik. Soon it was revealed that the superstar was shooting for director Shoojit Sircar’s film, Johnny Mastana (earlier titled Shoebite).
But the film hasn’t hit the theatres as yet, apparently at the behest of Hollywood filmmaker Manoj Night Shyamalan.
The story goes like this: In 1994, Shyamalan sold the rights to his story Labour Of Love to Fox Studios for a reported sum of $750,000, but the movie wasn’t made. Years later, UTV bought the rights of Labour Of Love to make into Johnny Mastana since Shyamalan was apparently not keen on turning the story into a film.
So UTV Motion Pictures — after buying the rights — almost completed the film with Bachchan in the lead. “But as Johnny Mastana neared completion, Shyamalan changed his mind and stated that he wanted to make the film based on his story. Later, Shyamalan, along with Fox, informed UTV that they shouldn’t release the film until the Hollywood filmmaker made his own version in the US and released it. But since there’s no talk of Shyamalan’s film based on Labour of Love, the Big B’s film is stuck indefinitely,” says an industry insider.
At the moment, Shyamalan is busy shooting the adventure/sci-fi film After Earth, that toplines actors Will Smith and Isabelle Fuhrman.
While UTV officials were unavailable for a comment, Sircar stated: “I hope UTV figures (things) out and completes whatever negotiations they have to do with Fox. It’s a good film not only for the actors and the director, but also the technicians. We have put our blood and sweat into it.” He confirms that Johnny Mastana’s storyline is based on Shyamalan’s original idea. “Rensil D’Silva has developed our script. M Knight Shyamalan never made it into a film. UTV needs to figure out everything because my job was to just direct it.”
Shoebite is the story of a man in his early 60s named John Pereira. He sets out on a journey of self discovery and penance, which leads him to rediscover his love for his wife in the twilight years of their marriage.
The film had hit headlines in 2008 after the Delhi High Court granted an order restraining director Shoojit Sircar and producers UTV from infringing Percept’s copyright on their film, Johnny Walker. Reportedly, Sircar was to make Johnny Walker for Percept but later approached UTV with the same subject, renamed Shoebite. Percept approached the High Court, which ruled in their favour.